Salesforce B2B Commerce Classic and Lightning: Two sides of the same coin

Salesforce started its B2B commerce journey back in 2018 with the acquisition of CloudCraze, a SaaS ‘B2B Commerce’ managed package application designed, built and maintained on the Salesforce platform. This acquisition filled the gap of ‘B2B Commerce’ capabilities in the Salesforce portfolio and introduced itself as “B2B Commerce Cloud”.

Now there is a new sheriff in the Salesforce ‘B2B Commerce’ town named “Salesforce B2B Commerce Lightning Experience” and Cloudcraze has found its new identity as “Salesforce B2B Commerce Classic”. So whether you are building the B2B commerce practice or interested in building a B2B commerce site, you first have to decide which B2B candidate you are going to elect which may be a confusing and time-consuming process for you.

So, let’s demystify it by trying to understand the core differences between these two offerings and how you can leverage them to our advantage:

1. The “Front Stage”

As the products’ names indicate, the first difference between them is the front end technology and experience for both Admins and the end-users. The front end of ‘B2B Classic’ is built natively using visualforce whereas the ‘B2B Lightning’ offers a fresh and state of the art Salesforce Lightning experience.

Visualforce has served well and continues to do so, but it is a custom-built solution by design that works well with Apex. Although ‘B2B Classic’ offers an interactive UI for admins to construct a storefront by ‘Clicks’, it has its own complexity and rigidity by its nature. Furthermore, this being a managed package, any desired new changes calls for further customization. For admins without rich knowledge of complex coding, agility in terms of meeting the end customer expectations and experiences becomes challenging.

On the other hand, in the ‘B2B Lightning,’ the storefront can be constructed with high flexibility through the ‘Click, Drag & Drop’ method just like a community page builder experience. It really empowers the admins to not only add various informative components to the pages but also add themes, logo, text styling, colour schemes to match the company branding within certain limits. Admins might have to go over and above the standard UI/UX OOTB features if required. Though these B2B Lightning standard ‘Lightning Web Components are not highly dynamic or variable, the admin can create them as per the requirement with knowledge of LWC.

It’s also important to note that Salesforce is working towards making the standard LWC open-source in future which will certainly open further possibilities to design and build personalized digital commerce experiences.

2. The “Back Stage”

B2B Classic’ aka Cloudcraze is built as a managed package on the core Salesforce platform which limits its ability to be a completely integrated OOTB cross-cloud solution like ‘Sales Cloud’ or ‘Service Cloud’. It is a package of components and processes which needs to be installed in the Salesforce org first before start using. The Managed package solutions by design have certain boundaries such as:

  • Although the managed package is installed in the Salesforce org, yet it keeps itself somewhat separate/ isolated from the core architecture which either results in building disjointed solutions or requires the use of heavy custom coding.
  • All future package releases /upgrades should be manually installed in order to avoid any challenges with the current build and data. Furthermore, the access to view or edit the Managed Package code is restricted. Whereas the ‘B2B Lightning’ version is completely native on the core Salesforce platform and is OOTB integrated with other core platform capabilities. The cherry on the cake is that all the product releases/upgrades are done automatically as per the standard Salesforce release cycles.

3. The “Data Model”

Now that we have learnt that ‘B2B Lightning’ is completely native on the core Salesforce platform, this also reflects in its data model. The ‘B2B Lightning’ commerce data model is designed and built on the core Salesforce data model, which is key to having a complete view of the customer journeyLet take an example:

The ‘Product’ object used in ‘B2B Lightning’ is the same which is that used in CPQ, Sales Cloud and Service Cloud. This allows us to build a connected OOTB solution for the entire customer journey and help us learn about”

  • The products the customer is interested in: Product mapped with Leads, opportunity, Quote etc
  • The products the customer selected: Products added by the customer in ‘Cart’
  • The products the customer has purchased in past: Products on past ‘Order’
  • For which product customer has some concern: Order/Product associated with open ‘Case’ etc

The ‘B2B Classic’ also provides around the circle customer journey data model too, but it is not seamlessly connected with other clouds and is custom and complex in nature. The managed package includes a lot of custom objects and custom fields that have to be imported into the salesforce org through installation. It has some challenges of its own such as:

  • Some of the custom objects are duplicated with the core standard objects like Products, Orders etc.
  • Custom relationships are defined for these custom objects with other core standard objects, which inherits complexity and cost in solution building etc.

Here is a glimpse of the data model of both products:

4.“The Use Cases”

When it comes to offering various standard business use case solutions for building a B2B commerce site, both the products have the range of ‘must have’ items like:

  • Product management through categories and catalog
  • Personalized products and price offering
  • Order checkout, Quick Order, Order History, Wish List etc

But if we take a look at advanced and complex business use cases, ‘B2B Classic’ has a stronghold as it has continuously evolved for better over the years, offers a solution to almost all the B2B commerce use cases like:

  • Product variations types like Kit, Bundle etc
  • Subscription, Contract based ordering
  • Guest Checkout Process
  • Split shipment delivery model
  • Discount coupons and promotions and many more

On the other hand, the solution offering of ‘B2B Lightning’ is still in an evolving stage and a lot of the advanced key features are yet to be released. The good news however is that Salesforce has a comprehensive ‘B2B Lightning’ product development roadmap, which appears very exciting.

Here is a glimpse of the road map from one of the webinars. Please follow Salesforce guidance before making any purchasing decisions:

5. The “Personalized Experience”

We are living in the era of ‘Personalized Experience’ where customers expect personalized content at each touchpoint. For example, a customer expects to experience similar personalized content at a commerce site, knowledge blog and email communications to his liking. One way to achieve this is through a robust ‘Content Management System’, which is embedded in every step of the customer journey.

In ‘B2B Classic’ commerce, this can be implemented through a custom-built integration to any CMS system, which again inherits cost and complexity.

Whereas the ‘B2B Lightning’ commerce, it offers OOTB integration with Salesforce Hybrid CMS. Now adding images or documents to the products and catalog is just a couple of clicks away and with the capabilities of Salesforce Hybrid CMS, and the same content can be syndicated to all the other communication channels and touchpoints with the customer.

Salesforce Hybrid CMS capabilities can be leveraged:

  • In Experience Cloud & B2B Commerce cloud (Lightning) via out of the box integration.
  • In Marketing Cloud via two Apps “CMS Connect and CMS Sync”, available on Salesforce AppExchange. For more details about these apps, go to CMS Connect and CMS Sync.

6. The “Early Starter Advantage”

Other than the diversity of the features, ‘B2B Classic’ has a stronghold in other areas such as the ‘Checkout Process’ customization as per business requirements and offers a lot more flexibility to design and build it. In ‘B2B Lightning’ commerce, the checkout process is built using the salesforce ‘Flows’, which is an OOTB salesforce feature to configure automation processes. On the one hand, the checkout process ‘Flows’ offers ease of implementation but on the other hand, the admin’s ability to customize these flows as per specific requirement is limited.

Should you toss the coin?

It is not an easy question to answer at this stage as multiple parameters have to be evaluated specifically in the context of the business use case in hand.

If the business use case calls for developing and launching a new B2B e-commerce site quickly , ‘B2B Lightning’ makes more sense as it is the future of the Salesforce B2B commerce capabilities. Although the product is in its early stage, there are currently some limitations of product capabilities and solutions specific to business requirements. The bright side of this is that the product is fully developed by Salesforce. natively on the core platform architecture and with the latest framework and security standards. Moreover, Salesforce continues to work on the product development roadmap to which you can align your e-commerce site development plan.

But, if the site has already been built using ‘B2B Classic’, a development model can be explored where the existing data model and the features can serve as back-end and the entire front-end can be developed using Lightning Web Components.